Monday, May 19, 2008

Hired Help

I heard that Debbie is decent and honest and "a cleanin' fool," so I phoned. My house, at any level I'd have to stretch to, has not been well or fully cleaned for over a year. She has no car so I picked her up in the city.

She was great. She scrubbed the kitchen ceiling and fan, the walls, cabinets inside and out and tops, back of the stove and beneath the sink. She took down the kitchen wall clock and re-set it -- it had been an hour off since late March. Also dusted walls, mopped floors, vacuumed, etc. Total of eight hours. All the while drinkin' coffee and Pepsi. Meanwhile I mowed the lawn, pulled weeds, cut back some creeping poison ivy, and cleaned out the garage.

I woke up this morning and thought, Glory be, my kitchen was clean, finally clean enough to suit me. We had even folded up the living-room daybed -- a job I couldn't do alone. In the bed position it only reminded me how much of 2007 I had spent laid up with three torn muscles that are now so scarred up there's places I can't stretch to.

Debbie has long Missouri roots and grew up near the Black River. For a long time she was a housekeeper for the elderly, she said, until government funding for that was cut. She was also caretaker for her grandmother, who died last year at 91. I worried that she might secretly hate cleaning and me for asking and paying her to do it. Oh no. "Cleaning is my livelihood," she said, and she offered to come back and clean for a day whenever I wanted, monthly or every other month. An irresistible thought.

I am over 50 and Debbie is the first hired housekeeper I have ever had, probably the first my squeaky-clean family has ever had in the three generations I know about. Thought long and hard before finally deciding there was no shame in hiring help.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Learning from Well Water

Before the electric pump draws it up into daylight, the well water here has had a long and mysterious career. Fabulously icy, and stony-sweet, it’s divine -- and as hard as nails. It's taught me this:

  1. For calcification around fixtures, spray with 50 percent vinegar, let it sit, wipe like you mean it, and then – wearing eye protection -- use a kitchen knife to chip off what remains.
  2. Rinse hair and face with bottled water or rainwater to stave off ratty “stonewashed” hair and ashy skin.
  3. A “stonewashed” effect will suffuse all your fabrics eventually. Laundering them inside out will help them last a bit longer.
  4. Drinking glasses will look like you just drank milk from them unless you use a dishwasher armed with Jet-Dry. Alternately, buy drinking glasses by the case, or explain to your company that the glasses aren’t really dirty, that you honestly did wash them, that the hard water clouds them up. Hard water also wears out glass so that it breaks more easily.
  5. Use a filtration pitcher for most of your drinking and cooking. Your coffeepots and pans will last longer. Filter the water you give to pets.
  6. In your sink or washtub, detergent will look not sudsy but like scum. The harder the water, the less suds you get. But the detergent is still working. The fact is that sudsing agents are added to detergents and shampoos merely for show. Hard water fights on the side of reality. I find that fantasizing about luxurious lather is almost as good as the real thing.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Hard Times & Noble People

This sign is in front of a small-business auto-exhaust shop in town, and it speaks of the times. Many more people shop now at the no-frills grocery: all three checkout lanes are busy. People carry their groceries home -- walking.

There are more new employees at Wal-Mart, working very strictly, as if they have master's degrees from Wal-Mart University. Rummage sales, church suppers, food drives, fundraisers, foreclosures. Fewer doctor visits, less travel and dining out. Higher bills for everything. With gasoline $3.68/gallon (today -- who knows about tomorrow?) every soul feels pinched. (Thanks to a certain P------t of the United States whose name we don't mention.)

All the same, there's an atmosphere: everyone making an effort to hold their heads up, hide their worries, keep their dignity and put on a smile, and think to themselves, "There's some that's got it a lot harder than I do."